Not just another ACFW conference ...
It happened. Finally.
Not how I would have envisioned years ago ... but God arranged for it to happen in such a way that I had three solid days—and then some—to savor it, with very little distraction. And He fulfilled His promise that when it happened, I would know beyond a doubt that it had been Him.
Opening day of conference. I’d been up since before 4 AM, original flight canceled, on another flight by 6:30 AM. Arrived in Dallas at 8 AM and dragged into the adjacent hotel by 9. Got my room. Crashed for a bit, but only dozed. Came downstairs to walk around, get registered, and mingle. Had an encounter with a very kind agent that left me thinking, “Just shoot me now.” Fled to my room ... sat on the floor, weeping before the Lord, begging His mercy and for clear direction with my writing, for the umpteenth time. Oh God, how long do I keep beating myself bloody against the brick wall of the publishing industry if You aren’t going to open the door?
I took myself to two Scriptures that were pressing upon me: Exodus 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” And Joshua 1:8, “Have I not commanded you? Only be strong and very courageous.”
The phrase echoed through my head: Take courage. Take courage. Reach out and take it.
The weeping spent, I pulled myself together. Went through my conference schedule, planned which workshops to attend. Changed clothes, redid my makeup, and went back downstairs. As I walked down the hallway to the elevator, I reminded myself, I am a daughter of the Most High. I am here because He brought me here, and I can do this. Regardless of what happens.
The Lord is with me.
Met Colleen, a friend from last year’s conference, and Beth, my writing partner and roommate, went to lunch with a small group. Sat down after with Colleen and another friend to compare WIP’s (works in progress) and talk about critiquing. And by that time it was time to wander over to the opening session.
Colleen and I sat together, and our table slowly filled up. I can’t even remember now—did we have worship first? The announcements started. And I started fidgeting. It was close to time to find out whether they’d be doing the first-time author contracts ... and if so, who. Despite my sureness that someone else would be announced, I couldn’t help but hope it would be me.
Lord, just get me through this session, so I can move on and deal with the rest of conference ...
The editor who traditionally gave out these contracts had to stay home because of a family medical emergency, but the leadership at ACFW still wanted to keep the tradition. Margaret Daley, ACFW President, began to read the announcement that Becky had prepared.
“... I shared a meal with this writer,” the introduction went. I thought of last year’s gala, when I’d sat at Beth’s table with her and Becky, and talked about raising chickens and ducks and other farm things.
“... this writer sent her proposal on a published friend’s recommendation,” it went on. This was also true in my case.
Oh Lord, could it be true ... ?
And then she read the title of the story ... MY story ... Defending Truth.
I covered my mouth with both hands. All the air went out of the room. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, couldn’t move. “I can’t believe it,” I whispered, about the time my name was announced and the room erupted with whoops and cheering from those who had any idea just how long this journey has been.
Thirty-one years since I started writing my first novel. Ten years, on this end of writing with the intent of pursuing publication. Seven conferences, seven completed novel-length manuscripts, eight years since I’d joined ACFW ... nine babies, twenty-five years of marriage, nearly eighteen years of homeschooling.
At last I realized that yes, I was supposed to walk up there and receive my contract offer. People were rising to their feet and applauding—I could see Brandilyn Collins, in the front row, just beaming. The one who offered critique honesty to a 36 ½-week pregnant mama—I’d needed that honesty. Margaret Daley hugged me and asked if I had anything to say. “I’m not sure I can,” I said, then took the microphone.
Voice shaking, I explained how I’d come to conference because God told me to—but I didn’t know why. I’d felt this was a make-or-break year, and I begged Him for specific direction with my writing ... and I held up the paper and said, “I guess this is it!” And then I thanked those who have been on the journey with me. “You mean more to me than I can possibly say,” I said ... and it’s true.
Colleen Coble caught me in a hug as I got offstage. Roxanne, a fellow homeschooling mom who’s also been through some deep water, met me halfway back to my seat, and all I could do is just cry on her shoulder.
Back at my seat came the torrent of texting as I shared the news with husband, older kids, and critique partners. (Silly me—I should have just left the session, LOL! I finally did when my husband called ...) After the keynote speech, I went to call my mother and tell her—the one who believed in me and supported me back when it all began—and I could hardly speak for the tears, again.
Over the weekend, I lost count of how many people congratulated me, hugged me, shared the joy and sent it winging all over again. “Incandescently happy”—I kept thinking of that phrase, and indeed was teased by my friend Ronie for glowing so much she needed sunglasses.
So—my first book contract is for a story not yet written, a historical romance novella set during the Revolution (what a surprise!), part of a nine-novella collection titled A Pioneer Christmas, to be released September 2013. Not, as I said, what I’d envisioned years ago, when my fantasy series was the only story of my heart—but every bit the gift that the other is. I am so excited to get to write this!
And, I’m reopening my blog. My target frequency is once a week, with tidbits about how the journey has been for me over the past few years, what I’ve learned, what I feel I might have to share with both readers and fellow writers. I’d be honored if you’d stay tuned.